NHL Playoffs West Division First Round Series Predictions: Blues shock Avalanche
The West Division went to script with the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights predictably filling the top two spots. Those two are the favorites to go on and claim Stanley Cup glory, but the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues could have something to say on that matter.
Could either the Wild or Blues spring a major surprise in the First Round? Let’s look at how we see the two series playing out.
Colorado Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues Predictions
The Avalanche collected the Presidents’ Trophy for a third time this season, just edging out the Golden Knights for the prize as they went 38-13-4 with 82 points. No side managed more goals than the Avs’ 197 with Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog all hitting 20 goals each, while Rantanen leads the team with 66 points. They were nearly as impressive at the other end of the ice, allowing the third-fewest goals (133) with Philipp Grubauer keeping a league-high seven shutouts.
The Avs also won the regular-season series 5-3 against the Blues, so what chance an upset in this one? Well, St. Louis won the last two games of the series and in impressive fashion, triumphing by a combined score of 9-4. The Blues got going down the stretch as they won eight of the last 12 to grab the four seed with top point-scorer David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly particularly impressive. If they can get Vladimir Tarasenko back fit then they have enough weapons to hurt the Avalanche. A lot of the players that won St. Louis’s first Stanley Cup are still with the side and that experience will be invaluable.
Verdict: St. Louis in six
Be sure to also check out our picks and predictions for who our expert thinks will win the Stanley Cup!
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Minnesota Wild Predictions
The draw for the playoffs has not been kind to the Golden Knights with the Wild having had their number during the regular season. Vegas went 3-4-1 against Minnesota this year, their worst record against any of their West Division rivals. They have also never won a game in regulation in Minnesota.
However, this is a franchise that, despite only being into its fourth year, has bags of playoff experience, reaching the Western Conference Final last year. They are also strong all over the ice with the best goalie tandem in the league in Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner. Ahead of them, Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo were part of the league’s tightest defense, allowing a league-low 124 goals. At the other end of the rink, Mark Stone has been excellent and has 10 points against the Wild this year.
Let’s also not overlook the fact Vegas won a league-high 40 games in the regular season so they certainly know how to get over the line. They’ll need all of that experience to see off a dangerous Wild side, lead by Russian rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov, who has 51 points on the year. Minnesota bagged 181 goals in the regular season and has goalscorers across the board with eight players hitting double figures. Their big issue is in goal with Cam Talbot struggling against the Knights, his save percentage dropping from .915 to .898 in their meetings this season. Between the pipes could be where the difference lies in what will be a tight series.
Verdict: Vegas in seven